How many gold medals did Jessica Long win on her Paralympic debut?

Born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova in Bratsk, Russia on February 29, 1992, Jessica Long was adopted by an American couple, Beth and Steven Long, as an infant and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. She suffered from a severe congenital abnormality known as fibular hemimelia, which meant that she was born without calf, ankle or heel bones, leading to the amputation of both legs, below the knee, when she was 18 months old.

However, in her autobiography, ‘Unsinkable’, published in 2018, Long wrote, ‘I had the freedom to be alone with myself, completely unlimited by my circumstances or my body while doing what I loved. I think that’s why I took to swimming with such ease.’ She joined her first competitive swimming team in 2002 and, the following year, was named ‘Female Swimmer of the Year with a Disability’ by her local governing body, Maryland Swimming.

In September, 2004, Long burst onto the international stage at the XII Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Still only 12 years old, she was the youngest member of the US Paralympic team, but nonetheless won three gold medals. On September 20, in the women’s 100-metre freestyle event S8, she was the fastest of the eight qualifiers for the final and confirmed her superiority by winning the gold medal in a new paralympic record time of 1:09.67. Four days later, in the women’s 400-metre freestyle event S8, she repeated the dose, winning the gold medal in a new paralympic record time of 5:07.88. In between times, on September 22, alongside team-mates Ashley Owens, Erin Popovich and Kelly Crowley, Long also won a gold medal in the women’s 4 x 100-metre 34-point freestyle relay.

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